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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Thomas Carew (1595?–1639?)

THOMAS CAREW is deservedly placed among the most brilliant representatives of a class of lyrists who were not only courtiers but men of rank; who, varied in accomplishments, possessing culture and taste, expressed their play of fancy with elegance and ease. The lyre of these aristocratic poets had for its notes only love and beauty, disdain, despair, and love’s bounty, sometimes frivolous in sound and sometimes serious; and their work may be regarded as the ancestor of the vers de société, which has reached its perfection in Locker and Austin Dobson. To Carew’s lyrics we may apply Izaak Walton’s famous criticism: “They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good.”

Thomas Carew, son of Sir Matthew Carew, was born in London. He left Corpus Christi, Oxford, without a degree, and early fell into wild habits. In 1613 his father wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton that “one of his sons was roving after hounds and hawks, and the other [Thomas] studying in the Middle Temple, but doing little at law.” The result was that Carleton made Thomas his secretary, and took him to Venice and Turin, returning in 1615. Carew accompanied him to the Hague also, but resigned his post and again returned to England. In 1619 he went with Lord Herbert of Cherbury to the French court. He became sewer in ordinary to Charles I., and a gentleman of his privy chamber; and the King, who was particularly fond of him, gave him the royal domain of Sunninghill in Windsor Forest. Carew was an intimate friend of Ben Jonson, Sir John Suckling, John Selden, Sir Kenelm Digby, Davenant, Charles Cotton, and also of Lord Clarendon; who writes:—“Carew was a person of a pleasant and facetious wit, and made many poems (especially in the amorous way) which for the sharpness of the fancy and the elegance of the language in which that fancy was spread, were at least equal, if not superior, to any of that time.”

Four editions of Carew’s poems appeared between 1640 and 1671, and four have been printed within the present century, the best being a quarto published by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in 1870. His longest work was a masque called ‘Cœlum Britannicum,’ performed at Whitehall, February 18th, 1633. Inigo Jones arranged the scenery, Henry Lawes the music, and the King, the Duke of Lennox, and other courtiers played the chief parts. Carew’s death is supposed to have occurred in 1639.